Prepared by special request for an upcoming bilateral meeting in the United States Congress, our latest dossier compiles visual evidence of Turkish provision of material support to al-Qaeda-linked groups in Idlib.
Turkey is using the conflict in Idlib to advance its own interests, extending its geographical and military sphere of influence deep into Syrian territory through increasingly open and reckless collaboration with al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – despite the fact that HTS are listed by the Turkish government themselves as a terror organisation. Thus we see jihadist militants sporting ISIS’ Seal of Muhammad logo riding in US-made armored vehicles – not seized in war, but handed to them by the US’ NATO partner, Turkey.
This dossier will briefly examine the evolving relationship between Turkey and al-Qaeda offshoots and proxies in Idlib, in particular HTS, before compiling visual evidence of Turkish provision of armored vehicles and heavy weaponry to these groups in Idlib province. It also covers Turkish proliferation of MANPADS anti-aircraft missiles through territory in HTS control, creating the very real possibility of terrorist attacks on civilian aircraft using NATO-provided weaponry should they fall into HTS’ hands.
Turkey’s current approach offers the worst of both worlds. While it has made no significant impact on the Syrian/Russian advance on and inevitable recapture of Idlib, as evidenced by Turkish capitulation in the recent cease-fire deal with Russia, the provision of high-end military equipment to HTS will have devastating security consequences for the US and its partners across the world.
As such, we close with brief policy recommendations on how the situation in Idlib may be resolved to ensure a safe and secure existence for civilians and IDPs, the removal of the international security threat posed by HTS and the neutralization of Turkish moves to arm and support this listed terror group, and a process of accountability for the Syrian Government and its backers.